Introduction to Application
In his book Applying the Bible, Jack Kuhatschek tells an amazing story about a man who knew his Bible:
While studying in the Holy Lands, a seminary professor of mine met a man who claimed to have memorized the Old Testament—in Hebrew! Needless to say, the astonished professor asked for a demonstration. A few days later they sat together in the man’s home. “Where shall we begin?” asked the man. “Psalm 1,” replied my professor, who was an avid student of the psalms. Beginning with Psalm 1:1, the man began to recite from memory, while my professor followed along in his Hebrew Bible. For two hours, the man continued word for word without a mistake as the professor sat in stunned silence. When the demonstration was over, my professor discovered something even more astonishing about the man—he was an atheist! Here was someone who knew the Scriptures better than most Christians ever will, and yet he didn’t even believe in God.
This man certainly knew the Bible—in Hebrew no less—but he did not really grasp God’s Word. When we grasp God’s Word, we not only understand its meaning; we also take the final step and live out that meaning in our lives. Jesus said plainly, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21a). There you have it in a nutshell:
We began the Interpretive Journey by discovering the meaning of the text in the town of the biblical audience. Then we measured the width of the river of differences and crossed the principlizing bridge. Next we looked at the larger biblical map to see how the passage fits into the rest of Scripture. Now it is time to ask, “How can we live out the meaning of the text in our town?”
Keep in mind that there is vast difference between knowing how to live out a biblical text and actually living out that text. Once you know how a text could be applied, it is up to you to submit to the Spirit of God and live out the application. For example, in Ephesians 4:26 we are told not to let the sun go down while we are still angry. We find in this verse the theological principle of putting a fairly short time limit on dealing with anger. As a volatile emotion, if anger goes unchecked for long, it can do major damage. One way to live out this principle would be to make sure that when you get angry with your roommate or spouse, you deal with the problem as soon as possible (e.g., before the end of the day).
But again, knowing the theological principle and how to live it out is not the same thing as actually living it out. All we can possibly do in this unit is explain to you how to apply a text. You will have to make the actual application, as you yield to the Holy Spirit, rely on the power of prayer, and receive help from other Christians. God certainly wants us to know biblical principles and valid ways of living out those principles, but his ultimate goal in communicating with us is to transform our thinking and acting so that we conform to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. When we come to the point of truly grasping God’s Word, we will find God’s Word grasping us. In the end, it’s much more than just applying the Bible to our lives; it’s about adjusting and conforming our lives to the Bible.